I recently went to London on a business trip. When I first found out I was going, I decided to sign up for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Global Entry program. I’ve heard my traveling friends rave about it, so that was enough for me to join the program.
Back in June 2008, CBP unveiled Global Entry, which allows faster clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers after they arrive in the United States. When the program first came out, Michael Chertoff, who was then secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and Transportation Security Administration head Kip Hawley told a panel of aviation and travel bloggers that Global Entry would eventually be linked to the then-privately operated Registered Traveler program. But when Verified Identity Pass’s Clear registered traveler lanes, located at 20 airports, closed suddenly in June 2009, it looked like an international/domestic trusted traveler program just wasn’t going to happen.
Global Entry requires travelers to apply to join online, where you also pay a non-refundable $100 fee, which covers you in the program for five years. Once you’re approved, the next step is scheduling an interview with a CBP agent, which I did at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. The agent asks a series of questions, takes your picture and fingerprints. You also hand over your passport. If you’re approved, you get your Global Entry card in the mail in between seven and 10 days, and you’re set!
So when I recently flew into Washington Dulles International Airport, instead of standing in the long immigration line, i walked right over to the Global Entry kiosk, laid my passport on the scanner, put my fingers on another scanner and filled out the customs declaration card. The kiosk spit out a receipt with my photo and flight information. I didn’t check a bag, so I went directly to the special exit line for Global Entry and was on my way. When I think about all the time I’ve spent in immigration lines, this is probably one of the best $100 I’ve spent in my life.
And a bonus to having a Global Entry card is that it is one of the programs recognized that allows users to take advantage of TSA PreCheck, along with frequent flyers of participating airlines. And when you go through the PreCheck line, you can keep your shoes and jacket on, and you can keep your approved liquids and laptops in your carry-on bags.
For those who don’t have or want a Global Entry card, you can now apply for a TSA PreCheck card. The vetting process is similar to Global Entry; the card costs $85 and lasts for five years. I’m all for anything that takes the stress away from travel and makes the process quicker. So consider making this investment to improve your travels.